Defiant Maduro Begins Second Term Amidst Economic and Political Crises
Maduro begins his second term amidst a devastating economic crisis and claims challenging the legitimacy of his presidency.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for his second term in office amid international claims that his re-election was allegedly marred with vote rigging. He will lead the crisis-torn country for the next six years.
The former bus driver was inaugurated before the Supreme Court, instead of the country’s parliament members whose powers have been stripped since Maduro’s socialist party lost in 2016.
In his speech, Maduro said that his second six-year period will be a peaceful path for Venezuela. He stressed that he was democratically elected and accused the US of launching an economic war against the oil-producing nation.
“Venezuela is at the centre of a world war led by the United States imperialism and its satellite countries,” Maduro said in his speech.
Despite the financial crisis plaguing the country, Maduro expressed optimism that Venezuelans will be able to tackle the worsening economic crisis without foreign interventions.
Venezuela, once one of the richest countries in Latin America, has now been plagued by a prolonged economic crisis since the world’s oil price fell sharply in 2014. Around 95 percent of Venezuela’s income relies heavily on oil.
Hyperinflation in the country is predicted to hit 10 million percent in 2019. The country’s economy is expected to shrink about 5 percent in 2019, as an outlook from the International Monetary Fund reported.
A UN report said that at least 2,300,000 Venezuelans have left the countries since 2015 to seek a better life due to the crisis in the country.
Why Was Maduro’s Re-Election Controversial?
Last May, Maduro was re-elected in a presidential election beating his rival Henri Falcon. However, his victory sparked protests from opposition groups and the international community which claimed vote rigging was the reason behind the incumbent’s re-election.
The official tally showed that Maduro gained 67.7 percent of the vote, while Falcon only took 21.2 percent. The latter claimed there were irregularities found during the election by saying that the incumbent exploited all the resources to force government employees to vote for him.
Falcon, who is an ex-army officer, called for a new election because the government allegedly set up 13,000 pro-Maduro posts near voting booths and gave bonuses for the poor.
“Today we are presenting before the Supreme Court of Justice the proper foundation of our case which demonstrates that such an electoral process is invalid,” Falcon said after election results were announced.
Maduro also faced worldwide criticism for human rights violations. According to reports from two rights organizations, the Maduro administration allegedly detained and tortured army members who were accused of defecting to other countries.
Rights groups found 32 cases where defectors were detained by Venezuela’s intelligence agency, Sebin, and the military intelligence body, DGCIM, where the detainees were beaten, choked, and received electric shocks to coerce them to give information on alleged coup plans.
Neighboring Countries Freeze Diplomatic Ties With Caracas
Washington stressed that it will not recognize Maduro as the president of Venezuela and instead considers Maduro a dictator, as US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said. Caracas has accused the US of preparing a coup to topple and kill Maduro.
The Lima Group consists of 12 Latin American countries and Canada including Brazil, Argentina, and Peru have said they reject the legitimacy of Maduro as Venezuelan’s President, as stated in a group declaration. Only Mexico under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stands by Maduro, a sharp shift from the previous administration.
One of Venezuela’s neighbors Paraguay, immediately cut diplomatic ties a few hours after Maduro’s inauguration.
Caribbean Divided Over Maduro
The Organization of the Americas (OAS), a group made of all 35 independent states in the Americas, has decided to deny Maduro’s legitimacy, but the group’s resolution divided the Caribbean nations.
Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, Bahamas, and Guyana, along with 14 other members, supported the resolution which refused to recognize Maduro’s presidency and called for a new, fresh election monitored by international observers.
But other nations such as Suriname, St Vincent, the Grenadines, and Dominica showed support for Maduro, and opposed the OAS resolution while Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda decided to abstain.
As the administration of St Vincent said, dissenting OAS members urged caution in passing the resolution against Venezuela.
“The OAS has to be careful because it may be viewed as an entity which any opposition party can manipulate as a tool in its campaign to enter an office, whether by the ballot box and other means which appear to be questionable,” it said.